Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Relationships Die From Sin

Genesis 3:6-7              When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband… Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked.

Wisdom is not something anyone can steal or purchase. Wisdom is born out of knowledge and experience. Adam and Eve had little of both. Eve misunderstood what could be gained from eating from the banned tree. She did not believe nor trust God’s words to her. She listened to Satan and her own desire for wisdom. In eating the fruit she found the knowledge of good and evil, but it was too late. Sin is disobedience to God. Sin destroys relationships. Their relationship with God died. They too died.

She and Adam recognized their nakedness. The effect of sin is to first point out to them their new condition. They were naked and they did not like it. Covering themselves with fig leaves they hid from God. Sin drives them away because they now had knowledge of evil, of their disobedience and complete knowledge of God’s command. Adam and Eve’s blame shifting in verses 12 & 13 reflect their knowledge of the good that should have occurred. The “good” is God’s command not to eat of the one tree. Their knowledge of good and evil began with the evil of disobedience. They can only understand the good after they have sinned. Their attempt to hide themselves from each other and from God makes clear this new understanding of their condition. In a backwards kind of way they have now found wisdom.

This story ends with their relationship to God forever changed. They no longer live with God but live apart from God. They are now to experience living in isolation from God. They leave the Garden and are given coverings made of skin. God’s holiness requires that they be separated from him because of sin. They leave to suffer the consequences God had pronounced when he told them not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hope Of Redemption Lives On

Genesis 4:26               Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.

Cain had slain his brother Abel. And then we read of the family line expanding by Cain’s marriage and by Adam and Eve having another son they named Seth. From Cain came a son named Lamech. He married two women and fathered children with them. Seth also had a son that he named Enosh. From these two brothers we see the heritage of sin and promise continue.

The family of Adam and Eve fell deeper into sin. The effects of the Fall are displayed in the escalation of their sinfulness. Cain’s son, Lamech, married not one but two women. The sin of polygamy comes into the world within one generation of the Fall. All people are sinners at birth because we all descend from Adam and Eve. Sin’s presence from generation to generation is depicted throughout Scripture. The sin of Adam and Eve was a sin of disobedience. But the progression of sin to murder and polygamy was incredibly quick. Nothing could keep it from advancing to greater evil or perversion. Look at the nature of contemporary life and you see the evil and perverse nature of sin imbedded in people and institutions.  Sin proves itself to be systemic in our human condition from one generation to the next, even to our present day.

Despite this spread of sin as the human race began to increase in numbers, the grace and plan of redemption moved forward too. Eve gave birth to another son, Seth. She viewed his birth as God’s granting her a replacement for the one Cain had killed. Seth grew up and had a son he named Enosh. It was at this point, see the second half of verse 26) that people began to call on the name of the Lord. God had not left himself without a witness. The image of God was darkened by sin but its flame had not been full extinguished.

As the following chapter 5 reveals, the family tree of God’s people descends from the line of Adam, Seth and Enosh (see Luke 3:23-38). The family branch of Cain and Lamech are cut off. The promise of God, the hope of redemption lives on. God’s plan for a redeemer begins.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Hearing God Through The Prophets

Genesis 19:27                         Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.  

Abraham had been told this would happen. The two angels had predicted this before they led Abraham and his family out of the cities. God gives warning before he acts, before impending disaster. Living without faith and adherence to Him brings carnage into our lives. He warns us in Scripture that we will reap what we sow. Abraham is proof to this but also to God’s loving grace and mercy towards those who take Him at his word.

Turning to Jesus Christ, we have the same prophetic voice of grace and justice. Do you experience a sense of awe and wonder before the reality of revelation? Scripture’s prophetic witness culminates in Jesus of Nazareth. He announces the truth that our transcendent God who dwells in inaccessible light is like a foolish old man who looks down the road every night for a son who isn’t there (Luke 15).

God is love. This means God loves. But if we are no longer awed by a sunrise or rainbow, a brilliantly red sun sinking into darkness, or a night brilliant with stars, will we be surprised at the astonishing words of God through the prophets in Scripture? To experience existentially the warmth and tenderness of God’s love, the prophets must be tasted and savored in silence. If a shade of their prophetic spirit is to darken our lives with its brilliance, the Word of God must be considered at length.

The alternative to listening and responding to the prophetic Word of God is a shallow, joyless faith where the reality of a loving Father fades farther and farther into the distance and eventually dies.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Darkness Of Faith

Genesis 7:17, 19, 23, 24         For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth… and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered… Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals… Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. 

God removed hope from anywhere but Himself. There was no hope for any living thing outside the ark. The flood waters covered all the earth.

This story does not mean that God has forgotten Noah and the others on the ark. For those who are trusting in God they will find comfort and hope in trusting. In relationship to Him they know their present and their future are secure. The danger and darkness around them does not minimize God’s love and his presence in their trouble.

This scene shows us the patience in Noah’s character. In humility and dependence he awaits God. Patience is not the same as endurance. Endurance can be stoic and is often seen as a physical stamina to withstand. Patience is grounded in love. It is waiting the return of someone who had been present or close. It is in complete trust that love is nurtured. Noah waits for God’s time in perfect confidence.

The lesson for us in our awaiting God is that we await him in faith and childlike trust. When God comes is of less importance than is our awaiting Him. The greater importance for us is that we walk with Him by faith as we wait. What matters is that we maintain our childlike attitude and trust in His promise. When He finally arrives, his arrival will be as natural to us as a sunrise and as a rainbow.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Call Of Hope

Genesis 6:8-9              But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord… Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.

The amazing thing here is that no sooner had God lamented the creation of mankind and their fall into sin and depravity than we have the announcement of one who had found favor with God, Noah.

One of the first things said about Noah is that he walked with God. Wouldn’t you like that on your resume, written by God himself? To be someone who walks with God is to be someone who lives each day in continuous faith. Faith in God builds character. It builds a person who is first of all recognized by God. The world may not take notice of you, but God would never miss you. In the world around us there is nothing that can compare to it.

The world prides its people on self-reliance, perseverance, courage, physical strength and wealth. But the exercise of these things is not faith. It is the trials and tests of faith that are more precious than refined gold, so Scripture says. Faith will never exist in us without the element of temptation.  It is doubtful that any child of God ever gets through the trial of his faith without being horror-struck at some point. What God does allow to befall us does come as a blow to us. Our immediate response is usually that we were not deserving of such a hurtful trial.

Spiritual character is only developed as Noah’s was – by standing firm and faithful to God’s character. This is done despite the discomfort and confusion that often accompany the arrows of the evil one. To walk with God by faith is to walk without the aid of godless resources and people. Walking with God by faith will build character and reliance on Him as we live each day to His glory.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Anger Fuels The Speedy Of Life

Genesis 49:6-7   Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.

            The young woman recounted that as she left a parking lot the other day; she pulled into the lane toward the exit and didn’t see another car coming. The driver had to swerve to miss her. The woman threw up her hands in apology and mouthed “I’m sorry” but the driver pulled in front of her, blocked her, got out, ran toward her gesturing and yelling obscenities and began pounding her hood with his fist She was ready to dial 911 when his passenger coaxed him back inside.

In his book, The Enigma of Anger, Garret Keizer writes: “You will notice how often your day-to-day anger arises when you’re in a rush. Hurrying lowers the threshold of your frustration, even as anger urges you to hurry more. On some visceral level, it makes sense that the engines we employ to give us more speed so often sound angry.” (pg.105)

Toad Hall, By Margie Haack. Summer-Fall 2011.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Joseph: A Portrait Of Christ


Genesis 37:1-2                Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan. This is the account of Jacob’s family line. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

The first eleven chapters of Genesis cover a period of 2,000 years of human history. This period of mankind’s history is one of sin, rebellion and judgment, ending with the Flood. The next thirty-nine chapters of Genesis are dominated by four men. The life stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph dominate the pages. These four men, as well as others throughout the Old Testament, are portraits of the future Messiah, Jesus the Christ.

Abraham is the example of God’s sovereign election by grace. Isaac depicts the example of divine, selective calling. Jacob exhibits for us God’s salvation by grace alone and justification by faith. And in Joseph we find God’s picture of divine glorification. Scripture gives us these stories as theological teachings on themes we have studied in the New Testament. God’s plan depicted in these men’s life stories is what the Apostle Paul understood when he wrote:  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him… those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28, 30)

From this chapter to the end of Genesis we have the story of Joseph. His life mirrors that of Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, Joseph was envied and rejected by his brothers. His brothers stripped off his clothing before selling him into captivity. In prison, his Godly character was recognized by his captors. He was bought by the captain of the Egyptian army. The lies of the captain’s wife thrust Joseph back into prison and certain death. But after many fierce and cruel trials, Joseph was finally exalted to the right hand of Pharaoh, the King, who bestowed upon him a new name and the authority over all the king’s people and land.

God’s unfolding drama of redemption marches forward.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Tower Syndrome

Genesis 11:4               Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.

Once I remember walking with a prosperous publisher, who made a remark which I had often heard before; it is, indeed, almost a motto of the modern world. Yet I had heard it once too often, and I saw suddenly that there was nothing in it. The publisher said of somebody, “That man will get by; he believes in himself.”

I said to him, “Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves? I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar. I know what flames the fixed star of certainty and success. I can guide you to the thrones of the Supermen. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.”

He said mildly that there were a good many men after all who believed in themselves and who were not in lunatic asylums. “Yes, there are,” I retorted, “and you of all men ought to know them. That drunken poet from whom you would not take a dreary tragedy, he believed in himself. That elderly minister with an epic from whom you were hiding in a back room, he believed in himself. If you consulted your business experience instead of your ugly individualistic philosophy, you would know that believing in himself is one of the commonest signs of a scoundrel. Actors who can’t act believe in themselves and debtors who won’t pay.”

Monday, February 17, 2014

Life Begins With A Good Foundation

Genesis 1:24-25          And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made…all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
As you read through the story of creation there is a sense of progress in the things that God created. Had he created mankind first, before he created the dry land, they would have perished. God laid the ground work for the universe one step at a time. Once the universe and world were finished, he turned to creating a variety of life forms. Plants, fish, animals and birds were put in their place at the right time. As each day, or period, of creation was completed God declared it “good”.

            We learn something about God’s nature in this account and other stories in Scripture. Here we see that God is eternal, existing before the universe we know of was ever created. God is powerful in himself alone. He used no tools to create; God spoke and it came to pass that things were created. The will of God is unchallenged. No one questions his creative desire or criticizes the things he made. God is perfect, creating things and life in such a manner that one compliments or supports the other. His knowledge is complete, knowing how to plan for future acts of creation. He knows how each creature is to be formed, and how best to place them in the world he has made.

            Living and existence is different than “Life”. Many things exist without living. Mountains, clouds, stars, buildings, cars and the like all exist. They are there to function in some manner for the world around them. Many living things merely exist. Trees, plants and mold all live and exist. They grow, reproduce and contribute by their existence to the world around them. Even living animals: birds, fish and land creatures, exist. Their living existence is a function of the creator’s will for them. They multiply and fill the world as commanded. God built a foundation that supported all the other things and life forms he created. “Life” is yet to begin.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Everything Begins With God

 Genesis 1:1      In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Before you go any further you will need to answer one question. Do you believe in God? For many people this is an easy yes answer. Many surveys of Americans will reveal that the great majority, over 90% of the people surveyed believe in God. The obvious follow up question should be: Do you believe in the God depicted in the Christian Bible? This question will begin to make many people nervous. For if their understanding and belief in God is based on something other than the Bible, then their belief is already flawed and their picture of God is distorted and their basis for life is a dangerous mirage.

As you begin with Genesis you must wrestle with the God depicted from the outset. All the stories of Genesis, and for that matter throughout Scripture, can only be properly read and understood with a correct view and belief in the God. Any god, spirit or eternal force that is not described in Scripture is a false and tenuous god. A life built on a false understanding of God and the stories or teachings of Scripture leave the reader without a correct understanding and belief system for their lives, relationships and future destiny.

God created all the reality you and I experience. Astronomy, medicine, technology, capitalism, governments and people derive their existence from God’s creative actions in the beginning. People dedicated to the understanding of life continue to seek answers apart from God’s account of things in Scripture. All wealth, nations, languages, knowledge and progress comes from Him and is allowed by Him as the originator or creator of all things.

As you continue to study Scripture recognize the fact that the entire Bible is intended to communicate knowledge to you about God himself and knowledge about you. Genesis begins this education by showing us our appropriate position related to Him and to our studies. You are the creature and He is the creator. From this perspective begins the journey of understanding and knowing the one true God, Jehovah, of the Christian Bible.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Life In The Image Of God

Genesis 1:27-28          So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”

Life as we know it begins with the creation of Adam and Eve. They too were created by God from nothing. They too are commanded to become fruitful, increase in numbers like the other created living creatures. But they are equally different than the other creatures. The difference makes them unique and destined for greater usefulness in God’s plan 

God created mankind in his own image. We are a reflection of God in the state in which he formed us. In the image of God we find our living existence leading to Life”. In God’s likeness we are set apart from other living creatures. They are not made in His likeness. Unlike them, we are to subdue the world and rule over all the other living creatures. Our living, our existence has meaning in our very nature of having been made in God’s image. We have life because we are in a cooperative relationship with God, one in which we contribute to His created world in ways the animals can’t.


Life, unlike a living existence, places us in a relationship with God. To have meaningful life, we must be in relationship with others. Cooperative relationships are the only mechanism for fulfilling the commands God gave Adam and Eve. When God place them in the Garden of Eden they were confronted with a choice, unlike the other creatures. They could eat from any tree in the garden, including the Tree of Life, but were not permitted to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.   


            Life is found in living within the image of God. This entails accepting the mandate to rule and subdue the created world and accepting the restrictions place upon us. There are things which we can do and things that we are not permitted to do. Taking God at his word brings us into a life predetermined by God, fulfills His will and transforms existence into Life. 

Friday, February 14, 2014


Deuteronomy 4:29-31            If from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress…you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. For the Lord your God is a merciful God.

People run around in life chasing many different mirages. Some chase pleasure, others wealth and some fame. This chasing in our lives boils down to four things. We all seek: to be known, to be seen, to be heard and to be fulfilled.

No one wants to live apart from others. We have heard it said between lovers that they have found their “soul mate”, someone who knows my heart, my thoughts. They have found someone who knows them. Other people seek to be noticed by peers. They want to impress other people and to be evident to everyone when they walk into a room. They want to be seen. The person with a new insight or revelation in their heart wants to be heard. They seek to be found relevant by other people or groups. They want to be heard. Lastly, people want to find meaning in their lives. They want their daily employment or volunteer service time to have meaning which brings delight to their hearts. They seek to find fulfillment.

The search is universal. All people, in all times and in all places seek these elements of life. St. Augustine (354-430 AD) wrote of man’s universal search for God:

Man, a little piece of your creation, desires to praise you, a human being ‘bearing his mortality with him’, carrying with him the witness of his sin and the witness that you ‘resist the proud’. Nevertheless, to praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

Confessions by St. Augustine,  pg.3.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Seek him first

Matthew 6:33-34         But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The secular man distances himself from God by his selfish, materialistic passions. He knows only his ability to provide for himself and others. His power makes life what it is each day. As a result, his world will be filled with anxiety, worry and fretting over how best to acquire or maintain his needs. He can never be satisfied with decaying possessions. Once he achieves his goals, he finds himself striving to maintain or reach higher goals. The world will never quench it’s thirst for life. Like the mouse on the revolving wheel, he/she toils endlessly but never arrives at their hearts desire.

The Christian is not anxious about the future or his needs. He can see how God has fed the birds of the air and clothed the lilies. God has made man greater than them and has promised us the same things. The Christian knows God will provide the opportunities from which man will be fed and clothed. Through the Christian, God is able to provide for others of lesser means.

God never promised that we would not work or toil for our provisions. He simply says that He will provide and He does. Our outlook in all our life situations is to be focused on Him. To worry and be anxious about our needs is to show our distrust for God's promises to us. Therefore, we should be still and know that God is present and providing all that our physical, emotional and spiritual life requires.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Who or what to serve

Matthew 6:24              No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

In the world of slavery it was impossible for a slave to be the property of two owners. Slaves were bought, like cattle or sheep, and became one person’s possession. If they were shared they would have divided loyalties. Who do they obey when requests are made that cannot be both be accomplished. They could not be shared. They were chattel, a piece of equipment for the owner’s use. Two people could not use a plow at the same time to tend to separate and distant fields.

So it is with the Christian. He cannot be the possession of two different masters.  Jesus says we cannot be the servant of both God and the world. We cannot value things (money, materialism) more than we value God. In order to serve the one the other cannot be served. The choice is between serving God or man; the Creator or created things. God expects our undivided and whole hearted allegiance. Who is more worthy; God or money.

The secular man will think he can serve both but he’s blindly mistaken. It's like trying to be in two places at one time; it's impossible! Our preoccupation in life clearly reflects whether we are God centered or self-centered. Our decision to follow Jesus will cause us to distance ourselves from the desires for this world’s treasures. So make your decision. Who or What will you serve?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Let your light shine

Matthew 6:22-23         The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.

We take for granted our ability to see. Our eyes are one of the most important organs in our body. As the heart and brain are necessary for life, the eyes are essential for seeing the world and recognizing goodness and evil. The eyes of our body give us our sense of direction and guidance as we move through each day.

Jesus uses the eyes as an analogy for our inner being, our heart, our soul. This eye directs the Christian's ambition to please God. If the eye is good our entire life and actions reflect the greater light of God through our bodies. Our speech is uplifting and wholesome. Our hopes and dreams are centered on God’s will for us. Our ambitions are to bring goodness to others and not harm. Our vocations are seen as opportunities to bring His presence into the lives of those with whom we work. Our entire person will reflect the presence of the Holy Spirit who dwells within.

The secular man’s light is darkened by his material cravings will also reflect his darkened heart. His vision of life is clouded by an ever changing desire for satisfaction in his earthly treasures. Deceptive and self-centered ambitions develop within him or her. Such people are motivated by their own physical desires and their insecurities. In the end they remain darkened in their whole body, mind and spirit. This is true darkness.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hows your heart?

Matthew 6:19, 21                    Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

The ambitions of the worldly person and the Christian are different. Jesus uses several life illustrations to make this point clear to us. He uses the examples of treasure, lightness and darkness, a relationship between a master and servant, and our tendency to worry to drive home his message about the things we treasure in our life.

God has given us possessions to be used with the full understanding that they have been given to us by Him. We have been entrusted with them in order to bring Him glory. When we begin to focus our concerns, desires and love on these objects or gifts, we have turned from God. These objects are tangible and subject to decay. They provide no lasting relief to physical, emotional or mental needs. There is danger, says Jesus, in becoming too pre-occupied with our treasures and our perceived need for them. The treasures we seek reflect our ambitions, hopes and alliances. When they fail or never materialize we find ourselves left with anger, despondency or hopelessness.

The Christian is to seek his treasure in heaven where it will last for eternity. It is not subject to decay or theft. Such heavenly treasures are real and tangible; they endure when earthly treasures fail. Jesus reminds us of the temporal and transitory nature of all things we hold dear. Our heart reflects where we place our concerns, desires and loves. May you capture the treasure that only Jesus offers freely to all people.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Who Are We Trying To Impress?

Matthew 6:1-4             Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

There is a Godly righteousness and there exists a Worldly righteousness. Righteousness can be related to God or to man. Words to help us understand the meaning of ‘righteousness’ include: morality, goodness, integrity, uprightness, correctness and decency. These elements of righteousness can be molded to conform to the world or to God’s standards. The differences between the world and God’s forms of righteousness make themselves known in the forms, motivations and rewards associated with the Pharisee and the Christian.

The Pharisee is ostentatious in the religious life. Their actions are designed to be visible to others in order to receive praise from men. The good opinions of others motivate them to become people pleasers, only as it meets their needs or standards. Their righteousness is self-motivated and self-centered. Their actions are designed to bring attention to themselves. Center stage is the place most sought by the Pharisee. They are actors playing the role in a religious performance, to an audience of fellow actors. The rewards are great but are temporary at best. Their righteousness is as filthy rags, it will wear out as the world moves and changes.

The Christian, on the other hand, displays his righteousness in secret. Only one other person can see, God. Their words are few because the audience knows their words and thoughts. All their efforts are directed towards God so they can be anonymous to the world in giving, praying and fasting. In secret, as the world is concerned, is no secret to God. Their secret acts are an acknowledgement to the one they love most. Such times are moments of faith in the one they know is watching.

The Christian reward for secret righteousness will be a reward from God in secret. He will receive it in public later, in heaven, by God.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Practical Response To Beauty

Matthew 5:28         But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

  Again we see that the Pharisees' restriction on the Law concerning adultery applied only to the external act. Jesus' command was to forbid not only the act but the thought and perverse imagination that preceded the act of adultery. Jesus emphasized the heart and mind in as we come to terms with the following of Mosaic Law.

In order to follow this commandment it may be necessary for some people to take drastic steps. The problem must be dealt with seriously and drastically. Drastic in the sense that the lustful thought alone is enough to cause "your whole body to go into hell". Jesus emphasizes the drastic seriousness of this problem in His examples of cutting off a limb and gouging out an eye. He does not encourage the act of self-mutilation but encourages everyone to be drastically moral in their approach to the temptations of this world.

He directs us to act swiftly, drastically, universally and morally in our attempts to refrain from social and worldly activities that would cause us to sin. We will stand out to the world as different. We will be seen by the world as mutilated by our self-denial. We will be ridiculed for not following along with their immoral behavior or perverted jokes.

Practically speaking, as Christians, are not our hopes set on the things above? Isn’t our reward in heaven? Are we not to serve the living God before the world? If the answer is yes, then we are to shun such evil and tempting activities. We are to run in the opposite direction. We should remain silent when others demand we respond as they do.  

Freedom from the world is possible when we value Him more than the relationships of sin that confront us each day. The Kingdom awaits those who remain salt to the world and light to the lost.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Honest Builds Integrity

Matthew 5:33-37         But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King… Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’, ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

The Law says we are not to give false testimony against our neighbor. This ensured that the accused would receive a fair and impartial trial. The Pharisees mixed it up again. Although there was no distinction as to where this should be done, the Pharisees distorted the intent of the commandment. They attached a formula or style to the vow that made it breakable. If the vow did not include the divine name of God then it was breakable or non-binding. This was the easy way out for lying.

There is nothing that can be sworn to that is not under the rule of God. The heavens, the earth, every city and every person are known and seen by Him. To swear to anything is to make a vow with God. All our pledges or promises are within His view. A Christian is aware of God's presence at all times and in all places.

This is why Jesus said "let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’. Both the civil and judicial courts are no place where special oaths are to be made or broken. The courts are God's extension of His rule among mankind. Christians are to make no distinction in their swearing here. The elaborate formulas of some people are simply an admission of dishonesty. Since they deny God's all-knowing nature and they attempt to conceal false motives before man and lie to accomplish it.

Christians acknowledge the presence of God in their simple statements of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Then as we live up to what we have said we find others able to trust us and our integrity developing. Integrity so made honors God and honors the people we associate with. Then we also find the world more open to listen to our message of faith and hope in our living God. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Jesus Fulfills The Law

Matthew 5:17              Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

A lot of people are confused by this statement of Jesus. In what ways does Jesus fulfill the Law? And if Jesus fulfills the Law, then what is the benefit to us? What are the consequences to his fulfillment?
              Jesus clearly says that He has come not to abolish but to fulfill the law. His reliance, reference and quotation of the Torah clearly reflect the foundation upon which His teachings are based. He not only accepts as true the written moral law but He draws out further the inward implications that God's law carries.
His coming into the world as the Son of God fulfills the predictive aspects of the Old Testament prophets of old. This is further testimony to the authenticity of those prophets as having been called by God. This reflects the foundation of the authority upon which Jesus claims to reveal the true and full intent of the law. His authority does not lead him to negate the Old Law and usher in a New Law. His authority maximizes the importance and implications of the Mosaic Law as he now fulfills it in his teaching and in his suffering.
Jesus does this by contrasting his teaching with the Pharisees. Their teaching is a perversion and distortion resulting from their oral tradition. For their righteousness was founded on outward works intended to gain God's favor. They completely disregarded the intent or inward requirements of the Law.
The consequence for the believer is that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If the commandments of God are kept and taught then we can be assured of our  place in the Kingdom of Heaven. But can we do this on our own? Are we stronger than the Pharisees?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Greatness Requires Much Training

Genesis 29:26-30        Laban replied [to Jacob], “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter [Rachel] in marriage before the older one [Leah]. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife…. And he worked for Laban another seven years.

Training for greatness is common in the Bible. A lengthy period of preparation in the wilderness, far from the eyes of others, often precedes a leadership role over God’s people. This pattern can be seen in the lives of people like Abraham, Moses and David. Abraham was seventy-five years young when God instructed him to leave his homeland. Moses was forty when God called him to lead the people from Egypt. David spent years as a fugitive to King Saul before God set him on the throne. For each of these men the role as God’s chosen leader passed through the valley of darkness and humiliation.

In the above passage we have Jacob moving into the worldly home of his uncle Laban. Laban was a shrewd and unscrupulous individual. His motives were never clear nor were they honest. Jacob, also a conniving individual, has met his match. It took fourteen years, seven more than Jacob anticipated to get what he wanted. In the end Jacob marries his first love Rachel, but only after having been duped into marrying Leah. We see that his worldly approach has not brought him peace and harmony. In the end he finds strife, jealousy and spoiled relationships within his household.

The lesson for us is evident. The temptation is often to abandon our faith walk with God because it does not seem likely to work. It would seem that honesty would not get us what we want. As a result, we give up faith, choosing deception and manipulation. Honesty, God’s way, may not seem to be the best policy. But dishonesty is always a terrible policy, even when it succeeds.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Clearer Vision Of Life

Genesis 15:3-6            And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

            You can spend your entire life looking down at yourself and your circumstance. In this posture, you find a very limited and narrow life. Or you can choose to look up to the stars. In looking up you are forced to see beyond yourself and your circumstances. You see others around you and beyond. In seeing the numerous stars you see the very hand of God in your life. The creator of the universe is within plain sight to those who will see.

            Living in the dumps and living in a big rush are symptoms of the one who always looks down. Such a view of life is an affront to God. That is because we are saying to Him: I refuse to look up. Hurry is similar in mood because it says: I do not have time to look up. Such busyness gives no regard to God or others because the focus is down. Perspiration is not inspiration. The result is we live life driven by the sinful preoccupation with ourselves and our low focus rather than upward toward God’s world full of hope and a future.

            Abraham believed God. He goes out of himself in looking down at his circumstances and turns his eyes up to God. He places his trust in God’s righteousness and grace. Abraham exhibited many noble qualities of heart but none were sufficient for becoming righteous. He became righteous through his living confidence, trust and faith in God. Righteousness is a guiltless position in the presence of justice and right. The justification of every sinner is by faith, and by faith alone. But it is our just walk that proves God to be just in saving us. If we do not walk in the life of faith, we are still lost in the dark.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Crowded Mountainside

 Matthew 5:1-2      Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying…

Jesus often withdrew to the mountains. This was a way for Jesus to retreat from the general population with his disciples for concentrated teachings without interruption. It has parallel significance to Moses' going up Mt. Sinai to receive God's commandments. Here we have Jesus (God) giving instruction in the meaning of God's law, the Ten Commandments to those who are His disciples. Jesus interprets the law in a way that is different from the other Pharisees and teachers of the law. He even issues commandments to those in attendance. His teachings here are the ethics of the Kingdom of God.
            You may want to take note that in Luke 6 we have some of the same teaching as what is found here in Matthew. They are not two different translations of the same sermon. Nor are they a collection of teachings from Jesus' many sermons. It is the individual authors' summaries of Jesus' teachings at separate times. The similarity of material is not unusual considering the consistent message Jesus proclaimed throughout His ministry.
            So as we begin this study in the Sermon on the Mount we should be mindful of what is ahead. Jesus is describing the character of all Christians. He is indicating how we are to view ourselves before God, how we are to continually thirst for God's righteousness and how we are to then view ourselves and others in the world as a result. Our inward intentions and motivations are the starting point for Jesus’ teachings. He goes on to also teach of the blessings to be received by his people now and in God's kingdom to come.

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